Iowa, and everyone else

Even though Rahkeem Smith didn't make a planned trip to Iowa this month, the school remains at the top of his list of favorite schools. And the linebacker that some consider to be the best in Illinois this year isn't shy about letting you know it.

While the rest of the nation is a running distant second to Iowa City at this point, Pittsburgh remains at the top of the group that's chasing the Hawkeyes for Rakeem.
The Panther Report recently talked to Rahkeem Smith, and he had this to say of his top six:

1. Iowa: I'm a defensive player and they've got one of the best defenses I've seen in a while. They're a good school and their program is very consistent. I go about a week and the mailbox is full of stuff from them. I talk to their coaches a lot.

2. Pitt: I like the school. I mean...I don't know. They haven't shown as much interest as the other schools. They gave me my first offer, but I haven't really heard much from them since.

3. Wisconsin: It's a good school. Their biggest catch is the new renovations: that new field or whatever. They keep telling me that I can play early there. They have linebackers but they don't really have skilled...I mean, I'm not going to talk anyone down. But they need a playmaking linebacker, and I guess that's supposed to be me.

4. Ohio State: They say they're looking from a guy from Illinois. They liked how I played, but I guess they're trying to see if I'm consistent. They want to wait until my senior season, at least a few games, to see if I live up to the talk.

5. Indiana: Well, I like them. But them and Ohio State are about even right now. They have a decent program. I haven't heard anything about Indiana that much. I hear it's a good school.

6. Louisville: I like their guy; I think his name is Reggie Johnson. He came from Morgan Park, Illinois. So they're trying to get some guys from Illinois.

It's somewhat telling that Rahkeem Smith mentions Louisville's inside linebackers coach Reggie Johnson, himself a former Cardinal linebacker from Chicago. It's likely that Louisville made Smith's list of top schools because of Johnson's connection to his home state of Illinois. After all, it was the first and only thing Rahkeem mentioned when talking about the U of L.

It's also somewhat telling that Smith did not recall being told that Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris was formerly a coach at the University of Illinois. In contrast, there seems to be little he doesn't know about Iowa's assistant coach, Lester Erb.

"I talk to him at least once a week," Smith said. "Ever since I met him he was a nice guy. He's pretty funny too."

Q: Did you ever talk to coach Harris, from Pittsburgh?

"I talked to him once, I think," said Smith.

While Smith's future in football looks bright today, with several big name schools showing interest, it wasn't always this way. Smith suffered a lacerated kidney during his sophomore year and was told he'd never play football again. But he refused to accept the diagnosis, and made a recovery that some didn't think was possible.

"My parents kept telling me to keep working hard," Smith said. "When it happened...even though the doctors told me I'd never play a game, my parents always knew I would come back. They kept faith alive in me."

Smith made his doctors eat their words with a 67 tackle, 12 sack junior season that featured an additional 11 tackles for a loss. When Rahkeem attended Chicago's MSL Combine, he impressed scouts with his aggressive style in linebacker drills as well as his collected demeanor during interviews.

At the moment, Smith has offers from Iowa, Pittsburgh, and Indiana but he's expecting more in the coming months. Would he be committing soon?

"I'm not sure yet. I'm planning to wait, but I could make a decision early."

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